The European Union Commission in Lebanon marked the 11th commemoration of the assassination of Samir Kassir, at an event in Sursok Gardens in Ashrafieh, which included the distrbition of Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press 2016.
In a word delivered on the occasion, EU Ambassador to Lebanon, Christina Lassen said: “Eleven years ago, on a Thursday just like today, the 2nd of June 2005, Samir Kassir’s voice was silenced.
Today, and every 2nd of June, in commemoration of the loss of Samir Kassir we remind ourselves of all the reasons and the necessity to carry on his battle, to salute his unshakable belief in the value of free speech and his fierceness telling and unfolding the truth.
I am today particularly touched to attend this ceremony for the first time since I have become the EU Ambassador to Lebanon.
Allow me here to take this opportunity and to extend a particular warm welcome to Mrs. Gisele Kassir, to the family of Samir Kassir, and to the members and team of the Samir Kassir Foundation.”
She added: “It is the freedom of speech and particularly the freedom of press that was dear to the heart of Samir Kassir, as it is cherished in the values and principles of the European Union.
For the world to move, flourish and improve, we need the brilliance of informed, professional and brave journalism, whether expressed through written words, photographs or videos. The freedom of press is closely linked to our own freedom of speech and to our freedom as nations, individuals and citizens.
The challenges are huge: Being a journalist is becoming ever more dangerous. There are attacks, hostage takings, arrests, and killings. The number of dangerous zones is increasing all across the globe and particularly in this region. Last year, the United Nations Security Council acknowledged this growing threat and adopted, for the first time ever, a resolution aiming to protect media professionals in war zones.”
She continued: “There are also growing concerns around this region about de facto government restrictions on freedom of press and freedom of expression. The alibis used to explain these repressive practices are usually linked to the need to ensure security in a world faced with the scourge of terrorism.
Yet, we must always remind ourselves that terrorists win when those whom they target resort to repressive security measures. Prudence should be the guide here coupled with observance of the rule of law.
Last year, the United Nations adopted new Sustainable Development Goals and one of them focuses exactly on this: “Public Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms”. The European Union very much supports this goal, which reminds all governments that they should respond to citizens’ demands inquiries for information also to ensure higher quality journalism. Unfortunately, often the opposite is often the case, at times even leading to self-censorship by journalists who sometimes shy away from touching on government sensitive issues for fear of persecution.”
She said: “Samir Kassir, who was writing his critical pieces during the very difficult time of occupation in Lebanon, himself was an optimist. He said once in an interview that while “the values and the procedures of the Republic have been thrown off track” it did not “diminish Lebanon’s worth” with resilient civil society and the freedom that he and other intellectuals enjoyed in their writing.
Sadly, his assassination marred that optimism and serves as a reminder to the whole region and the world that those wielding power should use it for protecting even those whom they disagree with. Yet at the same time, it is exactly through his witness that Lebanon – not anymore “a laboratory of violence”, to use Samir Kassir’s words again – can now serve as a powerful symbol of that fundamental truth.”
She concluded: “The 11th edition of the Samir Kassir Award is dedicated to all the journalists who are carrying out courageous and brilliant work in the Middle East, in North Africa and the Gulf – sometimes putting their lives on the line doing their job.
This year, we have received a total of 259 applications from 14 countries, over 100 more than last year. This is a true testimony to the increasing prestige and popularity of the Samir Kassir Award. The largest number of submissions this year came from Egypt (90), followed by Syria (51) and Lebanon (36). As usual, after thorough deliberations by the outstanding members of the jury, we will award three journalists who excelled in the three categories: Opinion Article, Investigative Article, and Audiovisual report.
Let me finish by congratulating once again the Samir Kassir Foundation and its staff members for their work. They have put all their heart and dedication into making this event a dignified commemoration of a courageous journalist.”
Source: National News Agency